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Prostate cancer screening: an individual choice

Published in Urology, Men's Health Author: Christopher Boelter,MD Author: Christopher Boelter, MD

Prostate cancer trails only skin cancer as the leading cause of cancer in men. Per the American Cancer Society, about 1 in 7 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer during their lifetime.

Prostate cancer develops mainly in older men. About 6 cases in 10 are diagnosed in men aged 65 or older, and it is rare before age 40.

In general, most men diagnosed with prostate cancer do not die from the disease. However, prostate cancer can still be a serious disease and it is the third leading cause of cancer death in men. Trailing only lung and colorectal cancer.

Symptoms of Prostate Cancer

Many people diagnosed with prostate cancer have no complaints or symptoms. Symptoms of prostate cancer may include:

  • difficulty urinating
  • frequently needing to urinate
  • pain and/or blood present when urinating
  • persistent bone pain
  • neurological changes to the lower extremities
  • pain in the hips and back that doesn’t go away

It’s important to realize that many men who have prostate cancer will not show any of these symptoms and will not see any changes in the duration or quality of their life.

If you have any of the symptoms listed above, you should talk with your health care provider. These symptoms may suggest prostate cancer, but they could also represent other diseases that warrant diagnosis and treatment. Treatments may include; watchful waiting, medications, surgery or even radiation. Testing and treatment of prostate cancer can prolong disease free years and it also involves risks and potentially lead to harm.

Getting Screened for Prostate Cancer

Guidelines help us target care for the general population. Individuals should have discussions with their provider about the harm and benefit of screening. Many societies recommend a shared discussion prior to testing for males between ages 55-69. Testing can also be individualized between 40-54 if there is a strong family history or other risk factors.

Any man experiencing any of the symptoms listed above or who has a family history of prostate cancer or feels the benefits outweigh the harms, should talk with their health care provider to discuss if screening is right for him.